FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Ed Romanowski
August 4, 2015
I’d long heard about Ed Romanowski – his reputation as builder/developer/operator at Bellstar Hotels preceded him – and it turns out our paths nearly crossed before (Edmonton Commonwealth Games – 1978). Ed has been a reader of my publications for a long time but we’d never met. He’s most recently landed at Albi Homes in Calgary (his card says Senior Vice President, Finance & Special Projects) – where I caught up with him there recently for an interview over morning coffee.
Ed’s story began in north-end Winnipeg. He’s third eldest of six kids; his mom was a steno, then homemaker. His dad, a WWII veteran, sold pots & pans door-to-door, then cars for a GM dealer - a top Cadillac salesman. Childhood memories morphed from summers at Grand Beach to his first job pumping gas where he learned his service attitude and ethics. Ed was an exceptionally successful student – St. John’s High School grad, B.A. (Hons.) in geography and urban studies, Masters in City Planning … all by the age of twenty-one. Ed says he found it easy, he was a fast mover – and perhaps ‘under-socialized’. His focus on Tourism and Leisure studies were the influence of Prof. Don Stone at U of Winnipeg. His self-described focus sounds pretty geeky: Quantitative Method and Systems Guy. No wonder he was ‘under-socialized’!
Career moves and 'opportunity grabbing' for Ed took him to Edmonton in 1977 to a Planner job with City of Edmonton Parks & Recreation department just in time to springboard to Executive Assistant to two key executives on Commonwealth Games projects. While there Ed met and married Alice (they met 23 years ago, married 22 years ago and have a 21 yr. old son – seems Ed really is a quantitative/systems guy). Career moves post-City of Edmonton – head of planning for I.D. Engineering in 1980 and founding his own firm Roman Consulting and Royal Tours (sold it in 1991) led to a post with PKF, to start and run their Edmonton office. That led to teaming up with partners in 1993 – Waterton Lakes Lodge … and Bellstar Hotels & Resorts was off and rolling (projects in Canmore, Kananaskis and Osoyoos). Ed describes the company as ‘boutique branded hotel management company’ who got good early-on at the condo hotel concept. The Romanowski’s moved to Calgary in 1997. And Ed was a TV star for a moment – he was an undercover boss! Still a Director and shareholder in Bellstar, Ed has turned his talents to other projects. More recently he’s been asked by Allan Klassen at Albi Homes to lend his hand to financing and special projects (translation: low density multi-family). Along the way his involvement with the Edge School and teaching at The Haskayne School where he lectures in leadership and policy development have kept him from having too much idle time.
Seems like there are lots of projects ahead for Ed …
Why are you successful? “I believe we exist to serve others – I got that from my dad. As a leader, reputation and having great people around you, and an attitude of gratitude. I’m always learning.”
What has held you back? “Nothing really. I think some of the best things are yet to come – they haven’t happened yet!”
I asked Ed how he sees his business “builder, financing loan arranger”; I asked ‘how’s business looking, going forward over the next quarter?’
… uncertain. There is a ‘wait and see’ uncertainty with respect to both the Provincial and Federal Governments, uncertainty in oil & gas – so we need a better balance. There is a shortage of serviced lots in Calgary …
And over the next five years?
… our industry needs to work closely with the city on issues of downloading costs to developers, creating an imbalance for inner-city vs. new suburban development. The price of oil WILL go up to a reasonable level, and development will continue. We will be looking at many new forms of development and community design. Creative solutions come out of hard times …
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… quality, then value (honesty and integrity), service, loyalty …
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Ed Romanowski, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… same reasons!
How would you describe your management style?
… very caring, visionary, teacher. I learned a lot doing the Undercover Boss show. I learned a lot about our people. Seven days of filming for 42 minutes of film.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
... how to be a better leader.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my dad and all the work he did helping Poles after the war. Joe Thompson at PCL. Dale Hodgson, Howard Pechet.
Work-life balance – do you have it?
… its an oxy-moron. I doubt whether there is a perfect balance …
… fitness, running, cycling, golf, travel, my wife and son also golf, F-1 racing fan. Volunteering at U of C, U of Winnipeg and Edge School.
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